Most of us have a bottle of soy sauce in our fridge or pantry. The versatile condiment is used in marinades, stir-fries, and dressings – or as a dipping sauce for foods like sushi. Its wide range of uses makes the best soy sauces a must-have ingredient, offering a quick and easy way to add taste to dishes.
While many people just reach for whatever is in their fridge time and time again, there are actually different types of soy sauces that can bring new flavors to your palate. Types of soy sauce vary by region and cuisine, but some of the most common are:
- Light Soy Sauce (Shoyu) – This is the most widely used type and is versatile for cooking, marinating, and as a dipping sauce. It is typically used in Japanese dishes and has a thinner and saltier flavor.
- Dark Soy Sauce – More commonly used in Chinese cuisine to add color and flavor to dishes. It tends to be less salty than light soy sauce.
- Tamari – Tamari is thicker and richer than most other soy sauces. It’s often made without wheat, making it a popular gluten-free option.
- Sweet Soy Sauce – This is a thick Indonesian soy sauce that is sweeter than traditional soy sauce.
- Low-Sodium Soy Sauce – Low-sodium versions are gaining popularity as more and more consumers want a health-conscious alternative.
In addition to using soy sauce in our kitchen to add flavor, many Asian dishes call for Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). It is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, an amino acid that our body produces. MSG is an ingredient that has gotten a bad rap over the years after studies suggested the substance was neurotoxic, linked to obesity, and promoted metabolic dysfunction. However, a recent report points out that many of those studies didn’t use appropriate control groups, had small sample sizes, and were flawed in methodology. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now says MSG is generally safe and does not pose a risk to those who eat it in moderation. However, some do have MSG sensitivities that can trigger headaches and other symptoms.
Now that that’s settled, let’s step back in the soy sauce aisle, something that can be intimidating. With all the bottles lined up, it’s challenging to choose the best option. We’ve taken some guesswork out of shopping for soy sauce with a list of the top choices according to foodies. These brands will bring your dishes to new heights. Did we miss one you use in your kitchen? Let us know in the comments below.
The List: Best Soy Sauces, According to Foodies
It’s a brand most of us know and probably use. Taste of Home says, “If you only keep one brand of soy sauce in your fridge door, let it be Kikkoman. This sauce is available at nearly every supermarket and big box store, so you’re never far from one of the best soy sauce options. Our Test Kitchen praised Kikkoman for how well it blended sweetness, saltiness, and a bit of acidic vinegar flavo.”
According to Mashed, “Kikkoman has consistently rated high in articles and kitchen taste tests where it is praised for its accessibility and balanced flavor of saltiness and sweetness.”
While it’s brewed in the U.S., Chef’s Pencil says, “We consider it to be at the top of our choices due to its all-purpose use. It’s made from a traditional recipe, out of soybeans, wheat, water, and salt and it’s a kosher soy sauce. It can be used for both Asian-inspired dishes and Western recipes. Works great in marinades, basting, stir-fry, and dipping.”
Taste of Home loves this brand for stir-fries. “As soon as our testers sampled Lee Kum Kee Premium Soy Sauce, they thought: stir-fry. This soy sauce wasn’t overly salty and had notes of sweet citrus and coffee-like acidity. Combined with the right level of sodium and plenty of umami flavor, our testers were going back for second samples of this sauce with images of homemade stir-fries dancing in their heads, including this top-rated Stir-Fry Chicken Lo Mein.”
Food Shark Marfa writes, “Made in China, this balanced dark sauce contains caramel which makes it ideal for caramelized dishes, although like most soy sauces it is suitable for a variety of cooking requirements.”
According to Mashed, “Kishibori, a Japanese-style soy sauce, was raved about by Epicurious for being an artisanal soy sauce that stands above the mass-market brands. It uses roasted wheat and is fermented for a year in 100-year-old cider barrels to bring out these complex, rich, and smooth umami flavors. Sam Mason in an Epicurious interview said Kishibori has been a longtime pick for making ice cream, saying that the high-end soy sauce is less like a salt bomb, and is more earthy and mildly funky with natural sweetness.”
Chef’s Pencil writes, “The great thing about this sauce is that it doesn’t contain additives and preservatives whatsoever. Just whole soybeans, wheat, and sundried sea salt. Quite interesting, right? And here’s some more: the ingredients are fermented for one year in aged cider barrels. While it can be used in cooking, we’d say this sauce is at its best when consumed raw.”
Pepperfool says, “It is unadulterated and has no preservatives in it, offering an authentic soy sauce taste without leaving you to worry about your health. Though not gluten-free, it comes in beautiful packaging and is made with high-quality wheat and soybeans for the best quality soy sauce.”
The Spruce Eats says this soy sauce is brewed on the warm and dry Shodo Island in Southern Japan. “This soy sauce is more expensive than your favorite grocery store version, but it’s not prohibitively expensive if you want to upgrade for a special occasion recipe. The cost evens out, too since it’s an 18-ounce bottle, you’ll have plenty to work with, even if you’re cooking for a large crowd or family. We love that the bottle has a big, clear ‘Best By’ date underneath the nutritional info, so you know exactly how long it will be good for.”
Recipes.net says, “This particular one comes with a hefty price tag since it’s considered as one of the best Japanese soy sauce types in the world. Reserve this luxurious condiment for special occasions, or use it to make the tastiest shoyu ramen. Its full-bodied umami flavor makes it the best kind for sushi too!”
Chef’s Pencil can’t rave enough about this sauce. “This is a complex, rich in flavor and yet mild sauce. It is one of the best-bottled soy sauces and it’s no wonder since it’s aged in 100-year-old barrels for four years. It doesn’t overpower dishes and it’s not too expensive.”
“Tamari may resemble soy sauce, but it has a milder flavor that makes it distinct,” according to Sporked. “It’s even made differently (tamari is a byproduct of miso paste, while soy sauce is brewed and fermented on its own). This was one of a couple of tamaris we tried, and I really loved it. It has a really bold flavor that gives it teriyaki vibes, and it feels like it can coat food really well. Not a huge departure from the soy sauce you’re used to, but a pleasant change.”
The Spruce Eats agrees adding, “This tamari is made slightly differently than soy sauce and is fermented for six months. It also tends to be a little thicker, making it perfect as a dipping sauce, and comes in a 10-ounce bottle. It has a higher soy protein concentration so you won’t miss the wheat at all.”
There are a lot of great things to say about this brand. “Free from MSG, this soy sauce is quite low on sodium and is certified as kosher and vegan,” says Chef’s Pencil. “Works great for marinating fish and meats.”
Pepperfool writes, “Best of Thailand has a light version of soy sauce which has less sodium in it than most other brands of soy sauce. In a tablespoon of this sauce, there is typically 270mg per serving and 13 calories. You won’t have to sacrifice your taste buds for your health any longer.”
“This Thai soy sauce is light, dark, and the perfect accompaniment to your favorite Thai recipes,” according to Recipes.net. “Since this is a low-sodium version, you can already expect that this condiment won’t be very salty. It also contains additional ingredients like vinegar that impart a more-than-welcome tangy quality. These Best of Thailand sauces are best for marinades because they are more viscous than the regular kind.”
This is not your average soy sauce, since it’s fermented in bourbon barrels. Taste of Home writes, “Bluegrass soy sauce had a flavor unlike any other brand we tested. In addition to the salty, savory notes you’d expect from soy sauce, this brand also had some molasses and fruity flavors coming through making for complex and satisfying flavors. It might not be a typical soy sauce that you’d spot on the table at your favorite sushi spot, but this brand was tasty and satisfying.”
Sporked says, “This fancy little bottle of soy sauce is packaged almost like a flask of whiskey at your corner liquor store, and that’s certainly by design. Manufactured in Louisville and brewed and aged in bourbon barrels, this Bluegrass soy sauce has a fruity flavor. It’s definitely distinct and it’s definitely tasty. This would make a great gift (even to yourself).”
Recipes.Net writes, “If you’re looking for the best light variant for stir fry and other recipes, you don’t need to go further than this product by Pearl River Bridge. Naturally produced in the Southern part of China, this condiment doesn’t contain any artificial colors and it only has a minimal amount of preservative. As a result, it has a deep savory flavor with intense saltiness and a sweet finish.”
According to Mashed, “What really stood out about this brand was the brand loyalty people shared for it. In a Reddit thread about best soy sauces, many people echoed that Pearl River Bridge was the superior Chinese light soy sauce, holding to as high of a standard as the Japanese brand, Kikkoman. One person talked about how they preferred it over Sempio when looking for a light or dark soy sauce.”
“With a natural, savory taste, this is the ideal sauce to add some taste but no color to your foods,” according to Chef’s Pencil. “It’s fermented in the open air. Great for dips and cooking as well. Pearl River Bridge is one of the most appreciated sauces in China.”
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